Follow the entrepreneurship press and blogs and you will read plenty about being disruptive. It seems that no matter how things were done in the past they are wrong. I have not seen the term used yet but sooner or later it seems entrepreneurs will be called disrupteneurs. Are radical business concepts the route to success? Are people going to turn their lives upside down to adopt a new way of living or doing business?My answer to both questions is no. Here is why:
Do you remember DOS (short for Disk Operating System)? Complex and hard to use it nonetheless sought to disrupt the way people lived their lives and how commerce functioned. Yet it was not until Microsoft copied the ease and intuitiveness of the Mac Operating System in a DOS overlay called Windows that the personal computing started to become more widely adopted. The Mac OS and Windows helped people move far enough out of their comfort zone that they would try something new. DOS was too disruptive.
The first cell phones hit the market 40 years ago. They were very similar to push button landline phones except you could carry them around. The first smartphone, the IBM Simon, came out in 1994. It allowed people to manage their entire lives on a mobile phone. For all intents and purposes, it was a flop, lasting only six months on the market. It was too disruptive. Almost another decade and several iterations passed before people embraced smartphones.
Successful business ideas today are no more disruptive than they were in the past. MIT Technology Review shows that with the exception of tablets, new technologies take seven to 30 years to achieve 10% penetration and another five to 39 years to go from 10% to 40% penetration. People’s lives are bettered in an essentially evolutionary way. Calling new products and services disruptive is a marketing ploy.
But before you consign disruptiveness to the trash heap, there is a place for unconventionality in entrepreneurship: at the conceptual stage of your product or service. Visualize combinations of completely unrelated products and services. From such disruptive notions, imagine a radical way of helping people and make it your vision, the end game of your business.
Then, figure out the incremental steps that people can take as their lives are changed for the better.
Question – Are you an early or evolutionary adopter and why?
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